Trading Happiness For Approval

By Rogan Smith |
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I don’t need anyone’s approval. Except my mother’s. I wish I didn’t, but on some level, I do.

I’ve never looked to anyone for validation. If they didn’t believe I was talented, I didn’t care. If they didn’t think I was beautiful, it didn’t shake me. If they thought I wasn’t nice, it didn’t matter, so long as I knew they were wrong. But, my mother? That’s a different story.

I know that my mother means well, but she has a way of making me feel like her way is the better way and mine will lead to disaster. I’ve always been someone who strived to make sensible decisions. But, like most people, I love to hear second opinions, particularly if it’s from someone who loves me and has my best interest at heart. However, I’ve since learned that those who love me don’t always consider my happiness.

When I was in my 20s and wanted to buy a car, my mother would suggest the most unattractive vehicle on the block. She’d tell me that I needed a reliable car, not one that was stylish. I’d then ask why can’t I have a stylish car that’s also reliable? I didn’t think I needed to sacrifice one for the other. It wasn’t her money. I just wanted her opinion.

When I finally bought the car she didn’t approve of, I could sense her secretly wishing it would break down just so she could prove a point. It’s not that she wanted me to fail or to lose my money. She just wanted to prove that she was right so that I would not make another decision without her approval.

The behavior continued throughout my 20s and later, my 30s. It got so bad that I would just stop telling her moves I planned to make. That was especially tough, as my mother and I share almost everything. She even knows the PIN for all my ATM cards. But, somewhere along the line, I slowed down on seeking her approval. The need has not completely gone away. In fact, I’m not sure it ever will completely, but I am 90 percent there. I had to do it, not only for my sanity, but for my happiness.

Whether it’s a parent, a lover, a friend or a boss, we all struggle at some point in life and trade happiness for approval. We don’t quit jobs we hate because our spouse wants us to hang in there. We stay because we want to make him happy. We take on extra work at our company because not doing so will show we’re not a team player. We marry the wrong spouse because friends think we look great together and make sense.

In the end, the decisions we make to please others come back to bite us in the butt. We become burdened, resentful and sometimes, depressed.

If it’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that I am the authority on my life. I have the final say on everything I do. If my decisions lead to failure, then I have no one to blame but myself. But, I will not live a life trying to people please. I will not sacrifice my sanity and happiness for anybody else.

When we’re lying on our death beds reflecting on our lives, let it be a reflection of good memories and feelings of pleasure in knowing we lived life on our terms and nobody else’s. That’s the true definition of living.

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